In April, the police stopped a vehicle in Odisha’s Boudh district for violating lockdown norms. Inside it was a 16-year-old girl along with some adults, including women.

Enquiries revealed the minor girl was a child bride who was being taken by her parents and relatives to her supposed in-laws’ house in a village in neighbouring Subarnapur district for marriage. The police presented them before the district child welfare committee where the parents were counselled to go back home and allow the child to continue with her studies.

A few weeks later in another district, Nayagarh, a daily wage labourer fixed his 16-year-old daughter’s marriage with a 26-year-old truck driver. Not interested in getting married, the girl informed the frontline workers of the non-profit group, Childline. After counseling, the father of the girl signed an undertaking saying he would not get his daughter married before she turned 18 – the official minimum age of marriage for women in India.

This year, child marriages appear to be on the rise in Odisha, a state which has done well to bring down their numbers in the past two decades.

The months-long lockdown starting March 24 to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic ended up devastating the livelihoods and income of...

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